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Senate Dems propose women to register for military draft

Female Marines train for Iraq border security. (U.S. Marine Corps/Released)
July 20, 2021

A Democrat Senator is proposing that all women in the U.S. be required to register with the Selective Service System, which maintains information on those who can be called up to serve in the military through the draft.

Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-RI) has prepared draft language for a provision to be added in the upcoming annual National Defense Authorization Act, that would require all Americans to add their names to the list of potential draftees, regardless of their sex. Reed shared the proposed legislation with Politico, which reported on the matter on Monday.

Reed’s proposed legislation comes more than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider a case challenging the constitutionality of the existing male-only draft. In a friend of the court brief, President Joe Biden’s administration urged the court to instead let Congress handle the matter legislatively, rather than have the court render an opinion on the draft.

The language of Reed’s proposed provision calls for applying the draft registration requirement to “All Americans” and strikes previously male-specific references from the existing legislation governing the military draft.

There has been growing discussion around ending the gender-based military draft system in recent years. Calls to include women in the draft have grown particularly since the military opened all combat roles to female service members in 2015.

The Senate voted in 2016 to add women to the draft. The vote saw support from then-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time. Politico reported the 2016 vote was primarily opposed by Republicans, but five Republicans still in the Senate did vote in favor of adding women to the draft. Those Republican Senators who favored adding women still in the Senate are Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The House Armed Services Committee adopted a similar provision on the House side of the legislative debate, but the provision was later dropped from the bill.

While legislation to add women to the draft stalled out in 2016, lawmakers later agreed to appoint a commission to consider the issue more closely. In March of 2020, the bipartisan commission released their findings in favor of keeping the military draft system in place and requiring women to register through the Selective Service System.

In February, a group of 10 retired U.S. generals and admirals submitted a “friend of the court” amicus curiae brief in favor of overturning the male-only draft. They argued, “Including women in the selective service would double the pool of candidates available to draft, raising the overall quality of the conscripted force and enabling the Nation to better meet its military needs.” The group of generals also argued that while opening up combat roles to women since 2015, the U.S. military has not lowered its training standards.